Westleaf Cannabis Announces Aggressive Canadian Retail Expansion with Experiential Music Partnership

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Calgary-based Westleaf Inc. is taking the unique relationship between cannabis and music to grow its Prairie Records retail brand across the country.

The company’s first store opened February in Warman, Saskatchewan, about 20 minutes from Saskatoon, and it has announced it will be opening two new locations in Saskatoon on April 20.

Adam Coates who has been spearheading the retail rollout as the company’s Chief Commercial Officer, said the online ecommerce has also been launched recently.

The two Saskatoon stores, both in premium locations, are planned to open in time to celebrate April 20, the day associated with the push to legalize cannabis in Canada.

“After the two stores in Saskatoon, we have an opportunity to open another store in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, which will happen this summer likely and then we’re building out storefronts all over Alberta and B.C. With where the AGLC (Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission) is at right now with not releasing any more licences, we’re busy building out the stores to meet regulation and security requirements and as soon as the AGLC will start issuing more licences we will be in a position to open more stores and enter Alberta,” said Coates.

“Same thing with B.C. We’re going through the different regulators – the B.C. government and the municipal level as well – to hopefully start building and opening stores in B.C. this year . . . We’re planning to open, in 2019, 25 stores and then plan to open as many as 50 stores by the end of 2020. Right now we’re focused on Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. and if there’s an opportunity in Ontario, once they start opening up more licence opportunities in Ontario, we plan to have a number of stores in Ontario as well under the Prairie Records brand.”

Westleaf says Prairie Records is focused exclusively on densely populated neighbourhoods, high traffic areas, and tourist destinations and retail stores will be situated in some of the most premium retail locations across the country.

The foundation of the retail concept is ingrained with a desire to create a unique cannabis purchasing experience through tactile in-store features and product offerings that celebrate the relationship between music and cannabis.

“Prairie Records is really the reinvention of the cannabis purchasing experience and what we’ve really done is married cannabis and music together. They’ve been best friends for a long time and we’ve used that as our theme throughout everything that we do from store design as well as the overall consumer purchasing experience,” said Coates.

“So what you’ll find when you walk into a Prairie Records is that it looks like a modern day record shop. However, the bit of the difference is that it’s a cannabis shop. So in a record shop you’d see records. We have records in shelves and racks of records that you would see in any record shop but instead of finding your next favourite band or artist what you’ll find is your next favourite brand or strain of cannabis.

“With this record cover concept, it allows us to create a more tactile and engaging consumer experience because right now based on regulations all product needs to be actually under lock and key. And the actual packaging is very restrictive in terms of lots of warning labels and only space for a very small brand element. So what we’ve done with the record covers is taken a lot of the information that you would want to see on the packaging traditionally and put that right on the record cover. We allow consumers to pick up records and explore and really kind of instill this sense of discovery.”

He said another unique store feature is how it organizes products on its record shelves by music type.

“We’ve categorized our store in three categories. One’s called Dreams, a classic Fleetwood Mac song. Walking on Sunshine and Just Dance by Lady Gaga. If you know nothing about cannabis but come into our store I think you should at least get a sense of the type of experience you can expect or the type of products that are in that category,” said Coates.

“And taking it one step further. In a record shop you can listen to music. Well our record shop is no different. However, instead you will listen to music but you’ll listen to the strain of a feature product. So on our top hits wall we have sensory jars that actually has the product inside so you look at it, smell it and the record cover where you can learn a little bit more about the actual product itself and the headphones you can put on where you can listen to a curated playlist that will give you a sense of the mood or the type of experience that you could expect. Really bringing in a lot of sensory in a really immersive experience is really what we’re about as well as providing a really wide range of a great selection of cannabis products.”

The vertically-integrated company also is building a purpose-built indoor cultivation facility in Battleford, Saskatchewan which will be operational by the end of September this year. It also has an extraction processing and manufacturing facility in Calgary which will be completed later this spring.

“Saskatoon and all of Saskatchewan, is proving to be one of the strongest cannabis retail markets in Canada as the sector continues to evolve and mature,” said Scott Hurd, President and CEO of Westleaf. “We have the opportunity to deal directly with licensed producers in stocking our shelves, we are able to sell online across the province through our e-commerce platform, and the ratio of stores to market size make Saskatoon an ideal location to operate cannabis retail.”

Recently, Westleaf announced it had entered into an exclusive partnership with cannabis leader Xabis to provide expertise to Westleaf’s Calgary cannabis extraction and production facility. The facility formerly known as Delta West, will be rebranded The Plant by Westleaf Labs. The extraction and production facility under construction in southeast Calgary is expected to produce cannabis derivative products and, after legalization of such products which is expected later this year, consumables, topicals and other cannabis infused products, subject to and in compliance with provincial and federal regulations.

Xabis is a Colorado-based cannabis processing company which provides turnkey operations for companies in the mid-stream of the cannabis industry.

“This partnership is another part of the execution on Westleaf’s strategy of becoming a significant vertically integrated player in the Canadian cannabis industry,” said Hurd.  “We believe a diversified offering of derivative cannabis products will account for a major shift in consumer demand once legal. We are positioning to formulate unique, high quality derivative products and bring in the best minds in the industry to help leverage our expertise in building and running these types of facilities.”

Westleaf also recently announced that the Town of Banff has approved its development permit for a flagship retail location in the heart of Canada’s most visited national park. The location on Caribou Street just off famed Banff Avenue, will be developed as a flagship in the Prairie Records brand of cannabis stores.

“Premium retail locations are the cornerstone of our vertically integrated strategy and which we believe uniquely differentiates Westleaf by providing access to wholly owned distribution channels,” said Scott. “We have built our Prairie Records retail brand to be a superior retail experience and have focused on locations with high foot traffic in urban centres and resort destinations. There are very few locations in Canada that tick off as many boxes as the Banff location does. If you have ever been to the intersection of Banff Avenue and Caribou Street on a summer weekend, you will know exactly what we are talking about.”

The store will be in the basement of the historic King Edward Hotel which was built in 1904 and is the second oldest hotel in Banff.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior National Business Journalist with Retail Insider in addition to working on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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